Monday, September 17, 2012

17 Sept.

Apart from this being the anniversary of the birth, in 1923, of the great Hank Williams and that of the equally great actress, Anne Bancroft, this is a HUGE double anniversary of tremendous meaning in the history of our nation. If you click HERE, you'll see my blogpost from I.N.K. [Interesting Nonfiction for Kids].

Long live the republic.
And here's to the wounded & the lost at the Battle of Antietam & to those who loved them.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Into the Unknown

    So, the thing about any sort of an anniversary is that a date is more than one or two digits on a calendar. In that one little grid, that pinnacle of a square-tipped iceberg of time, is an invitation to remember. This is more than Sunday, the 16th of September, 2012. 

Lauren Bacall, b. 1924
Francis Parkman, b. 1823
B.B. King, b. 1925
    • For one thing, plenty of interesting people, such as actress Lauren Bacall (what a face, no?), musician B.B. Kingand historian Francis Parkman, share this as a birthday. As do countless other folks we'll never, ever know or maybe never heard of. Poet Alfred Noyes, for instance - do you know him? I hope you know his splendid, far out adventure poem, The Highwayman. oh baybee Read this one out LOUD!

AND, it's the 392nd anniversary of the late summer day when a boatload of adventurers sailed away from the southern coast of England. Most of them never to return to the only part of the world they'd ever known.  And why? The same reason most folks bundle up their belongings & take off: A chance at a better life. That and getting AWAY - so it was for many of the passengers on the good ship Mayflower.  Being that their religious p.o.v. was against the law.  The idea of all those goodbyes, last looks at familiar shores, and wow - the pure discomfort of sharing close quarters in a damp, smelly, wooden sailing ship! Yikes! I've written about that voyage a couple of times. Had the honor of illustrating it, too. In Three Young Pilgrims. And The Adventurous Life of Myles Standish and the Amazing-But-True Survival Story of Plymouth Colony. Gosh, that was a good book. Didn't do very well, sales-wise, but oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, huh? But I sure had a good time doing it and that's the main thing, right? Right.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

15 Sept.

         So, just for you to know, way back on the 15th of September, 1789, baby James Fenimore Cooper was born. What a totally popular author he was in his day! Readers loved losing themselves in his tales, such as The Last of the Mohicans, set in young America's wild frontier, but not until I read David McCullough's book, The Greater Journey, did I know that, two years after J.F.C. wrote the L. of the M's., he upped and moved himself and his wife & children to Paris, in 1828. Where he became good friends w/ the splendid painter, Samuel F. B. Morse, who'd go on to invent the telegraph. Isn't that something? 
        Old, long-gone Mr. Cooper shares a birthday with the wondrously tubby William Howard "Big Bill" Taft, 27th U.S. President (b. 1837) - the only president to go on to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Who once upon a time, on a frosty January day in Oyster Bay, NY, 1919, stood weeping over the grave of Theodore Roosevelt, POTUS No. 26, his old friend-turned-political enemy. 
     Exactly 100 years after Mr. Cooper was born, Robt. Benchley came into the world. Do you know about this guy? If not you should. Get a load of him here!  It's Agatha Christie's b-day, too. She'd be 122 years old today if she hadn't died years ago - and rather peacefully, too, as far as I know. Ironic, considering how many murders she plotted. You might have seen one of many film versions of her plays, stories, & books (my favorite? PBS's Poirot)but oh baybee! - give yourself the fun of reading one of 'em.  Check out THIS one. It begins like this: "It was five o'clock on a winter's morning in Syria."
     Oh well, anyway, countless folks who've been dead for years & many who are still bumbling along have a birthday today, when I had every expectation of being at Mansfield, MO, for a celebration of the life & works of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Those of you who are her fans know she used to live there. Until she got her ticket punched back on a winter day in 1957, when I was in the 5th grade. Anyway, I never got there because it was raining fishhooks & hammer handles out on the interstate. It's a wonder I didn't end up dead in a ditch. Could hardly see the lines on the highway or the brake lights of the shadowy vehicles in front of me. And explain to me what sort of an idiot would be out driving in a driving rain and NOT turn on their headlights? You'd think their lights were coin-operated. Sheesh. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Door Marked 14 September

        So, some truly remarkable souls stepped through the door marked [on our side of it anyway] 14 September.  
        Alexander von Humboldt entered our world at this time/space intersection: Monday, 14 Sept. 1789/Berlin. A few months after Geo. Washington's Inauguration. I could say that he began his earthly adventure.  He grew up to be a geographer, a curious-minded botanist, an explorer whose curiosity took him deep into the wilds of South America. By golly, if I were an ambitious person I would so write a book about this man. By golly, I just might... Just the wikipedia essay about him will knock your socks off. Figuratively. It's damp & chilly here today [blessedly so, after this dry cauldron of a summer]  socks are warranted. 
      And one of my all-time favorite illustrators was born on this day, in 1867, when future author Laura Ingalls Wilder was 7 months old. Check out the wonderful drawings of pen & ink maestro Charles Dana Gibson.   

      And it's the birthday anniversary of a true revolutionary. Margaret Higgins Sanger,  champion of giving women volition and control over their potential motherhood, came into the world at the corner of Sunday, 14 Sept. 1879/Corning, NY.  And, and, and, thanks to Leon Czolgosz,  his unhappy, confused, perhaps demented assassin, 58-year-old  President William McKinley departed our world on a Saturday in 1901, went into he Blue Beyond through the door marked 14 September. I once came across a lovely, candid photo of him, smiling in his open carriage, tipping his topper at the crowd. No idea that he was going to be shot w/in the hour.  Ah well. There's a lesson, no?  Anyway, Mr. McKinley died of his bullet wound and what were his parting words? 
    "Good-bye – good-bye, all. We are all going.  It's God's way. His will be done, not ours. Nearer, my God to Thee, nearer to Thee. We are all going. We are all going, we are all going. Oh dear..." 
    And not long after, in Buffalo, NY, Theodore Roosevelt took up the task, but that's another story.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

        So, I wanted you all to see this picture I painted for the new book that's coming out soon, called Shovelful of Sunshine.  Truly, it's a lovely book that I hope you will see and enjoy - by golly, I hope you'll buy it, too! In the beginning, I became an illustrator of books in order to make a living, and sure, I still want & need to do that, but over the years it became so much more than that. How I have loved the business of reading, even writing a story then visualizing the people and scenes within. What would they look like in life? For many of my books, I've had vivid clues because the people - John Adams, Ben Franklin, Lizzie Cady Stanton, for instance -  really lived and while they lived they got their pictures taken or painted. But this child here - Meggie her name is, in the story - I didn't make her up. That was the author's business, but how Meggie might have looked, that was mine.  What fun!
        Speaking of illustration, one of my very favorite and certainly one whose work influenced mine, was Arthur Rackham.
It was on this day, September 6, in 1939, that he passed away.  Look how lovely his work was!

      AND, one of my other very favorite illustrators came INTO the world through the door marked 6 Sept, in the year 1863. That'd be Jessie Willcox Smith.  If you don't know her name, you certainly know her work. For example: 
Aren't I so grateful for their work, those countless hours they spent at their drawing boards.